Today in Hockey History: April 23
Some of the National Hockey League’s “Original 6” teams made postseason memories on this date. However, there are plenty of the league’s newer franchises who made their mark on Stanley Cup playoff history on April 23, as well.
A Big Date in Red Wings History
The Detroit Red Wings can fondly look back on this date as they not only won a Stanley Cup on it, but one of their greatest players in franchise history left rewrote the record books.
The Red Wings hosted the New York Rangers, in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final, at Olympia Stadium, on April 23, 1950. Jim McFadden knotted the game at 3-3 late in the second period, which was the final goal scored for quite some time. After finishing up the final 26 minutes of regulation without a goal, the two teams needed a second overtime to decide a winner.
Pete Babando, who his first goal of the postseason earlier in the contest, beat goaltender Chuck Rayner to win the Stanley Cup 8:31 into the second overtime session. This was the first-ever Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final that was decided past regulation and it remains the only one reach a second overtime period.
Fast forward 46 years to April 23, 1996, and the Red Wings are in Winnipeg to take on the Jets in Game 4 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals. Center Sergei Federov tied a team playoff record by picking up for assists in the 6-1 win, to give the Red Wings a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.
Speaking of team playoff records, on April 23, 2002, Steve Yzerman became Detroit’s all-time leading postseason scorer. He scored a goal and added an assist in a 4-2 win at the Vancouver Canucks, in Game 4 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals, to break Gordie Howe’s Red Wings’ record of 158 playoff points.
Yzerman retired with 70 goals, 115 assists and 185 points in the Stanley Cup playoffs. He remains the Red Wings’ all-time leader in goals and points, but Nicklas Lidstrom passed him up with 129 postseason assists.
More Memories for Gretzky
While Wayne Gretzky is most remembered for his time with the Edmonton Oilers and Los Angeles Kings, he had a pair of big games for other teams on this date. On April 23, 1996, he had three assists as the St. Louis Blues beat the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs to give the Blues a 3-1 lead in their Western Conference Quarter-Final series.
One year later, Gretzky was playing for the Rangers as they hosted the Florida Panthers in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. He set an NHL record by scoring the ninth hat trick of his legendary career. The natural hat trick came within a span of 6:23 of the second period and was all the Rangers needed for a 3-2 win. All three goals came at the expense of former Rangers netminder John Vanbiesbrouck.
Lightning Strikes Thrice
On April 23, 1992, the Tampa Bay Lightning named Terry Crisp the first head coach in franchise history. Crisp was just three years removed from winning the Stanley Cup with the Calgary Flames in 1989. He would 142-204-45 before being let go 11 games into the 1997-98 season.
Crisp was behind the Lightning bench when they hosted the Philadelphia Flyers, on April 23, 1996, for Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. A record crowd of 28,183 was in attendance at the ThunderDome in St. Petersberg, FL. Unfortunately, they left disappointed as John LeClair scored a pair of power-play goals in the Flyers’ 4-1 victory.
On April 23, 2004, Nikolai Khabibulin shutout the Montreal Canadiens, 4-0, in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Just 15 days earlier, he shutout the New York Islanders in the first game of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. With his performance against the Canadiens, Khabibulin became the first goaltender to record a shutout in Game 1 of back-to-back playoff series in the same year. He had five shutouts that postseason as the Lightning went on to win the Stanley Cup.
Odds & Ends
Bob Baun scored one of the most memorable goals in Maple Leafs’ playoff history on April 23, 1964. His shot from just inside the blue line fluttered past goaltender Terry Sawchuk to give Toronto a 4-3 overtime victory in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final. Baun scored the goal with a broken bone in his leg suffered by blocking a shot from Howe in the third period. The Maples Leafs won Game 7 to clinch their third straight Stanley Cup.
On April 23, 1972, Hockey Canada announced that an eight-game series between the best Canadian-born NHL players and the Soviet National Team. The two national teams played their epic set of games, known as the “Summit Series,” later that September.
The Minnesota North Stars named Herb Brooks their head coach on April 23, 1987. Brooks became the first and only Minnesota native to coach the North Stars. He only spent the 1987-88 season behind the bench and was relieved of his duties after a disappointing 19-48-13 record.
Kevin Stevens of the Pittsburgh Penguins, became just the third player in NHL history, on April 23, 1991, to score the game-winning goals in three straight games of the same playoff series. His third game-winner came in a 3-1 win over the Capitals in Game 4 of the Patrick Division Final.
One year later, Scotty Bowman made history when he led Penguins to a 6-4 decision over the Capitals, in Game 3 of the Patrick Division Semifinals. The win was the 115th in Bowman’s career, putting him past Al Arbour for the most in NHL postseason history. Mario Lemieux factored in on all six goals, scoring three of them and earning assists on the other three.
On April 23, 1994, Tony Amonte scored four goals in the Chicago Blackhawks’ 5-4 win over the Maple Leafs, in Game 3 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals. He joined Denis Savard as the only Blackhawks to score four goals in a playoff game. Savard’s big night also came at the expense of the Maple Leafs, in 1986.
The Canadiens set a new NHL record on April 23, 1998, with an overtime win in Pittsburgh. Benoit Brunet scored to beat the Penguins 3-2 in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. It was Montreal’s 14th straight postseason overtime win.
Patrick Roy became the first NHL goaltender to record 20 career playoff shutouts on April 23, 2002. The historic blanking came in a 1-0 win over the Los Angeles Kings, in Game 4 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals. He finished his career with 23 career Stanley Cup playoff shutouts, one behind Martin Brodeur for the most in league history.
On that same night, Blues’ netminder Brent Johnson shutout the Blackhawks 1-0 in Game 4 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals. He became the first goaltender in NHL history earn a shutout in each of his first three career postseason victories.
It wasn’t all bad news on this date for the Capitals. On April 23, 2018, they eliminated the Columbus Blue Jackets with a 6-3 win in Game 6 of their first-round series. They became the first team in league history to win a best-of-seven matchup after losing the first two games in overtime on home ice. The momentum from those four-straight wins carried over as the Capitals went on to win their first Stanley Cup in franchise history that June.
On April 23, 2019, the San Jose Sharks knocked the Vegas Golden Knights out of the first round in one of the most controversial and memorable Game 7s ever played. The Sharks were down 3-0, midway through the third period, when Cody Eakin was given a five-minute major for cross-checking.
The Sharks scored four times on the major power play to take a 4-3 lead. Logan Couture scored twice with Tomas Hertl and Kevin Lebanc adding to the onslaught. Jonathan Marchessault forced overtime in the final minute of regulation before Barclay Goodrow ended the series late in the extra session. San Jose overcame a 3-1 series deficit for the first time in franchise history.
Happy Birthday to You
Tony Esposito leads a talented group of players who are celebrating birthdays today. The Hall of Fame goaltender record the sixth and final playoff shutout of his career, on April 23, 1982, in a 2-0 Blackhawks win over the Blues, in Game 6 of the Norris Division Finals.
Other notable players born on this date include Gregg Sheppard (71), Reggie Leach (70), Wayne Merrick (68), Ryan Walter (62), Claude Julien (60), Alain Chevrier (59), Patrick Poulin (47), Willie Mitchell (43), Pat Maroon (32), Matt Tennyson (30) and Sheldon Dries (26).
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